Parents worry about their kids. It’s their job! As a parent, I totally get this. One of the biggest things I worry about is who my son is hanging out with and what kind of friends he’s choosing. I don’t just pay attention to this when he wants to hang with friends from school. I pay attention to this when I drop him off at youth group as well. I want to know he is going to be around good kids who are making good choices and growing up the way I hope my son is growing up, respectful of others, kind, and loving.
My own parenting journey makes it easier for me to relate to parents who feel threatened when youth ministry attracts kids they wouldn’t necessarily hand pick for their own kids to be around. But the church has a mission. We are called to reach out to people and introduce them to Jesus. We have to stop worrying so much about the negative impact young believers or unbelievers will have on us, and start considering the positive and eternal impact we can have with the help and through the love of God.
If you have parents who are really concerned about certain kids in your youth ministry having a negative impact on their kid, here are some next steps you might consider taking:
Always invite concerned parents to youth group. When parents complain about a certain student being a negative influence, invite them to come and experience youth group. Why not? Being at youth group for a full program night will give these parents a better sense of what is happening or not happening while their student is at youth group.
Schedule a meeting. You want to have enough time with parents to understand their concerns and to share the vision and the structure of the youth ministry. Invite them out for coffee or ask them to meet you at the church. Just gain some time with these parents. When you gain time, you gain trust.
Introduce them to the student they are concerned about. If possible and if it’s not completely awkward for the student, introduce the student and the concerned parent to each other. Before you make introductions, give the parent a little bit of history about the student. Give them the opportunity to know this student and to gain compassion for a student other than their own.
Supporting parents in youth ministry is one of the hardest parts of our job, especially when they complain about other students. Take it all to God in prayer. He is with you. Do what you’re called to do. Love and invest in students, even when they worry other parents.